Southwest Airlines meltdown worsens; California airports hard hit with mass cancellations

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Travelers wait to pick up their bags at the Southwest Airlines baggage counter after their flight was canceled at LAX on Dec. 26. (Eugene Garcia/Associated Press)

Thousands of Southwest Airlines travelers remained stranded at airports across the country on Tuesday morning, with hundreds of flights continuing to be canceled in the aftermath of powerful winter storms that hit large parts of the country, leaving passengers ‘s vacation plans were disrupted.

According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, airlines canceled more than 2,800 flights Tuesday morning, the majority (2,526) of them being Southwest Airlines.

Hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled in California through the weekend, making up a large portion of the Southwest’s schedule.

Passengers sat on the shoulder of Los Angeles International Airport, dozens of flyers lined up at rental car counters at Hollywood Burbank Airport, and nearly 100 more waited inside and outside the facility.

Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan told The Wall Street Journal that the airline will operate at about a third of its normal rate to reorganize and get schedules back on track. said he was planning to

“This is the biggest event I have ever seen,” he said.

All flights were listed as unavailable on the company’s website Tuesday morning. Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Perry said in an email that inventory for booking travel was “very low,” but that flights were still operating.

As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, at least 60 flights have been canceled and at least 55 delayed from Los Angeles International Airport.

Andy Robinson was queuing for a hotel voucher at the Southwest Terminal after his flight home to Denver was cancelled. Robinson is in Denver with his family. I was able to grab a flight, but I am confused by cancellations and other delays.

“I try to look positive. I’m in California,” Robinson said. A relative of Robinson’s suggested driving to Denver. “I’m wearing flip-flops.

Elsewhere in Southern California, 18 outbound Southwest flights, or two-thirds of their services, were canceled at Hollywood Burbank Airport on Tuesday, according to mobile flight tracker Flightview. At John Wayne Airport, 51 southwestbound flights were canceled Tuesday morning, and seven were delayed. Meanwhile, San Diego saw the biggest disruption, with 89 southwest flights canceled and 28 delayed.

Despite paying $60 for early check-in, Roger and Jane Truesdale were among hundreds of passengers who arrived in Burbank on Tuesday.

But the couple, from Estes Park, Colorado, who were in town to visit their son on vacation, didn’t pack enough medicine to last a week. , they said, pointing out that renting a car or taking a bus was not an option.

“It’s not ideal, but I have to go home. Hopefully I can find a good replacement,” said 77-year-old Roger Truesdale.

A flight board shows canceled flights at the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX.

A flight board shows canceled flights at the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX. (Eugene Garcia/Associated Press)

Southwest Airlines blamed the cancellation on a devastating winter storm that hit the northern half of the country over the holiday weekend, saying, “Our sincere apologies for this are just the beginning. We understand and sincerely apologize.”

Senate Commerce Committee members Ed Markey (D, Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut) argue that Southwest Airlines flight cancellations were caused by recent winter storms. said it can’t be done. Refunds to travelers.

Compensation should include not only rebooked flights, refunds, hotels, meals and transportation, but also “substantial financial compensation for interruptions to vacation plans,” the two senators said in a statement. said in

The Southwest Airlines meltdown reached the Oval Office, and President Biden tweeted that the airline would be held accountable, directing damaged travelers to the Department of Transportation website to claim compensation. I was asked to decide if I was entitled to it.

Biden tweeted: “Our administration is trying to hold airlines accountable.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) said on Tuesday that the committee will investigate the cause of the disruption and its impact on consumers.

In a statement, Cantwell said, “The weather has not been the only problem for Southwest Airlines in recent days. Many airlines are unable to properly communicate with consumers when flights are canceled. It deserves strong protections, including a well-established consumer refund rule.”

After driving five hours from Oakland to Los Angeles on Monday after her flight was canceled, Kate Shelter waited in line for hours at LAX’s Southwest Terminal on Tuesday morning to get a refund and retrieve her family’s luggage. Her luggage flew to Los Angeles even though she and her children (ages 9 and 12) could not board the plane.

However, Schelter withdrew the refund. Southwest Airlines ticket agents said they could not help Schelter and offered a travel ticket instead. “I’m going to move my vacation forward now and will be waiting hours on the phone with customer service trying to fix this.

ferocious and weary traveler flooded southwest on Twitter, including reports of waiting in long lines Spread outside the airport terminal, missing luggage it in some cases traveled despite the flight being canceled, or Stacked unclaimed for days, waiting by customer service phone hours disconnected many timesI’m trying to navigate a glitchy website.

some passengers said they did not receive I received an email or text message about the status of my flight and instead received a notification in my company’s app from Flight Aware or from a family member or friend.

Maria Valenciano Ramos and her husband, Jeronima Ramos Jr., were hoping to see their daughter in Nashville this week, but Monday’s Southwest Airlines flight was canceled. I had to wait 3 hours for customer service just because it was cancelled.

They drove frantically to the airport’s southwest terminal on Tuesday morning and eventually rebooked their trip for January 1, the earliest available flight with no set return date. did. Other airlines operating similar routes charged up to $1,600 more per ticket, Ramos Jr. said.

Valenciano Ramos said: “This changed the whole schedule, the whole holiday.

Newly elected LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath was left stranded in Las Vegas after her Southwest flight back to Los Angeles was cancelled. she said on twitter Monday evening.

“because @Southwest Airlines Your only chance to get home is to spend over $400 each way on another airline to arrive [Tuesday] PM (& vet appt & cancel work mtgs). united nations. Authentic. who can afford this? Not working families or young people who go home once a year,” Horvath tweeted.

Many also questioned the airline’s statement that the weather was to blame. indicate Other airlines operate less disrupted and that part of the problem may be staffing.

The Dallas-based airline says it is “adequately staffed and ready” for the holiday weekend, but due to “operational conditions” caused by severe weather that has hit much of the country, We’ve been forced to make daily changes to our flight schedules, and we still have the tools our team uses to get the airline back at capacity.”

The paralyzing winter storms have hit two of the Southwest’s largest hubs, Chicago and Denver, particularly hard.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon,Worried about unacceptable rates in the Southwest Reports of cancellations and delays, and lack of prompt customer service.

“The Department will investigate whether the cancellation was controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan,” the agency said in a tweet.

Times staff writers Sarah Wyer and Courtney Subramanian contributed to this report.

This story was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.

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